UN urges Ireland to change 'inhuman' abortion ban

The United Nations Human Rights Committee (UNHRC) has urged Ireland to change its abortion ban after human rights experts declared it "inhuman" and discriminatory against women.

(Reuters/Cathal McNaughton)Pro-Life campaigners demonstrate outside the Irish Parliament ahead of a vote to allow limited abortion in Ireland, Dublin, July 10, 2013.

On Thursday, the UNHRC released a statement saying independent experts had determined that Ireland's abortion laws had discriminated against a woman named Amanda Mellet in 2011, and thus the state should grant her appropriate psychological treatment and compensation. At that time, the woman found out on the 21st age of gestation that her unborn child had birth defects and would most likely not survive long after birth, The Atlantic reports.

Because abortion is illegal in Ireland, Mellet traveled to the United Kingdom to undergo the procedure. She had to return 12 hours after the procedure due to lack of money, and also had to leave the remains of the fetus, according to the United Nations experts. However, the ashes of the fetus arrived unexpectedly via courier after three weeks.

Ireland has one of the most restrictive abortion laws in the world, Thomson Reuters notes. The majority Roman Catholic country previously had a complete ban on abortion, but it was lifted in 2013 after both pro-life and pro-choice camps held massive protests on the streets. Abortion is now legal only in cases where the pregnancy threatens the mother's life. This condition includes the risk of suicide, but not cases involving birth defects, incest, rape, or incidents wherein the baby will most likely die after delivery.

In Mellet's case, the experts said she was forced to make a choice between continuing her pregnancy while the fetus is dying inside her womb, and to go back to Ireland while still not fully recovered. They also said the woman was not given the bereavement counseling and medical service provided to patients who miscarry.

In 2013, Mellet filed a formal request with the UN to denounce Ireland's abortion ban in the case of congenital abnormalities. Although the UNHRC is authorized to review such complaints, it cannot mandate the amendment of a state's laws.